Theatre review: Fred & Alice

Half Moon Theatre, Cork

The key to being happy is to accept your limitations, says Alice at the end of this utterly beguiling two-hander, in which both characters have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) but are much more than that label.

Cora Fenton plays Alice, an energetic, passionate young woman, who is upbeat most of the time but has moments of sadness, bewilderment and a blackness that her boyfriend, Fred, is attuned to. Fred is excellently played by Ciarán Bermingham who, with his facial contortions and sometimes awkward body movements, suggests an inner frustration as he tries to communicate and is given to obsessing over music and words. For him, there is music in words.

Alice finds meaning and comfort in numbers but most of all, her life is enhanced by her relationship with Fred, with whom she fell in love at first sight. It took Fred a couple of years before he reciprocated. They met in a care home and in a bold stroke, they announce that they’re going to live together in what looks like a Wendy House complete with a white picket fence.

Written and directed by John Sheehy, it’s as if he is liberated from dramatic conventions such as plot, focusing instead on getting into the unconventional minds of his two unique characters. For them, life is a daily adventure, even if it only involves ordering pizza.

Socially, Fred always found life difficult and failed to make friends, but in Alice he has found his match and she brings out tenderness in him. There’s talk of him being institutionalised as a result of living in the residential home. But all he really needs is his hyper-active girlfriend and his tennis racket which he ‘plays’ as if it is a guitar.

There is a fleeting reference to Alice’s mother putting her on the contraceptive pill. But sexuality is not explored in this play. But this is a joyous celebration of a couple that could have been society’s rejects.


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